There are only a few ways to get a green card in the U.S. Because adjustment of status (or AOS) is a very popular method, it pays to know the details. The more you know about your options, the easier it will be for you to make informed decisions about your case. From deciding whether it’s the best option to walking you through the filing process, here is what you need to know about adjusting your status.
What is Adjustment of Status?
When you file a petition for a green card and your priority date is current, an immigrant visa number will become available and you will need to take the final step toward your green card.
If you are already in the U.S. under a nonimmigrant visa status (e.g. H-1B, E-2, L-1, etc.), then you are able to file a form to change this nonimmigrant status to an immigrant status (green card). This is called “adjusting your status”.
Remember that adjustment of status is different than “change of status”, which indicates switching from one nonimmigrant status to another (e.g. TN to H-1B status). It should also not be confused with “visa transfer”, which usually refers to transferring sponsors. Adjustment of status only refers to going from a temporary visa to a green card.
Keep in mind that this is only available to those that already have a temporary visa. For those that are going straight to a green card or are otherwise not under a nonimmigrant status, you will need to go through consular processing. This means that you must travel to a U.S. Consulate or Embassy in your home country to participate in a one-on-one interview with a consular officer. If you are eligible for an adjustment of status, you can always choose consular processing.
What Form Is Required?
To adjust your status, you will need to file an I-485 Application to Register Permanent Resident or Adjust Status to the USCIS. Keep in mind that you need to do this, your sponsor is not responsible for this step.
How Much Is The Adjustment of Status Fee?
The adjustment of status form I-485 is one of the more expensive applications to file with the USCIS. The fee itself varies based on your age. Here are the adjustment of status fees:
- For those under the age of 14 who are filing with a parent, the AOS fee is $750.
- Those under the age of 14 who are not filing with a parent have a fee of $1,140.
- For those over the age of 78, the fee is $1,140.
- For everyone else, the fee is $1,225. This is a $1,140 fee for the form and an $85 biometrics fee.
It is important to note that biometrics can be requested of anyone, even those outside the 14-78 age range. This simply involves having you come into a USCIS service center to have your physical information and fingerprints taken.
What is the Adjustment of Status Timeline?
The longest processing time for a green card is often the wait for a priority date to become current. Once this is over, the adjustment of status processing time will usually take about six months from the day you file your I-485 to the day you receive your approval (or denial) notice.
Keep in mind that even though you may have been able to use premium processing to shorten your green card petition to 15 calendar days, this feature is not available for the I-485. Your adjustment of status processing time is at the mercy of your service center’s caseload.
Here is a breakdown of the green card petition to adjustment of status timeline:
- Green card petition: Like the I-485, this timeline is heavily influenced by how busy your service center is. On average, it takes six months to process your petition. If you are applying for an employment-based green card that makes use of the I-140 form, you may be able to use premium processing for your petition.
- Priority date waiting period: This is often times the longest part of the timeline. Your priority date is the day that the USCIS receives your petition. That date must be compared to the most recent final action dates released by the Department of State in their visa bulletin. You cannot adjust your status until your priority date matches or passes the final action date in your category. The timeline for this varies widely and can take anywhere from no time at all to several decades. Speak with your immigration attorney to learn more about your case.
- Adjustment of Status application: As we covered, the I-485 form has a six month average processing timeline. You will get a notice from the USCIS with information for your biometrics appointment where your fingerprints will be taken to verify your identity and background checks will be run.
- Interview: This is not always the case, but the USCIS reserves the right to obligate anyone adjusting their status to appear for an interview at a USCIS office. Be sure to bring the originals of all required documents to this interview. The interview appointment may be set several weeks in advance, extending the adjustment of status timeline.
- Request for Evidence: Much like with nonimmigrant visas, the USCIS may ask for more documentation to support your eligibility for your selected green card. You will be given a narrow window to respond appropriately, so it is a good idea to take RFEs directly to your immigration attorney.
- Getting your green card: Once the I-485 is approved, your status will be adjusted to lawful permanent resident and your card will be mailed to you in another six months.
Is it Better Than Consular Processing?
At face value, it would seem that adjusting your status is a better option than having to travel all the way to your home country to go through an interview. The expense, the inconvenience, and the intimidating factor of the interview are all perfectly good reasons to adjust your status.
However, here are a few reasons why some people choose to go through consular processing when they are eligible for adjustment of status.
- If your home country is close to the U.S. (such as Canada or Mexico), then it may be cheaper to travel to a Consulate or Embassy rather than pay the hefty fee that goes along with adjusting your status.
- Consular processing may also be a more expedient option. Depending on the caseload of your Consulate or Embassy, you may only need to wait a few weeks rather than the six months you would need to wait for your I-485 to be processed
Adjustment of Status Checklist
Just like with any immigration process step, it helps to be completely prepared before submitting any forms. Here is the adjustment of status checklist of items you will likely need:
- The I-485 form
- Two portrait photos of yourself that adhere to the photo guidelines
- A copy of the approval notice from your green card petition.
- A copy of your birth certificate
- A job offer letter (if you are applying for an employment-based green card)
- Marriage certificate (if you are applying for a marriage-based green card)
- Your I-94 arrival/departure card
- The I-797 approval notice from your previous nonimmigrant status
- A copy of any Employment Authorization Documents
- You may also need the results of a medical examination, found in form I-693. This should be in an envelope that has been sealed by a doctor approved by the USCIS.
- Your filing fee of $750-$1,225 (depending on your age)
Keep in mind that this list is not exhaustive. Some nonimmigrant statuses, like the J-1 or F-1, require different documents and so will have varying checklists for adjustment of status. Any dependents adjusting their statuses along with you will also need to submit their own documents. To get a clear understanding of all that will be required of you for this last step toward a green card, consider retaining the services of an experienced green card attorney.
Why Would My Adjustment of Status Be Denied?
Many people wrongly assume that, once your petition has been approved, getting the I-485 approved is only a formality. In reality, the USCIS understands that it often takes a long time to go from filing the petition to filing the I-485. Much can happen within that time, so your eligibility will be reassessed. Here are some common reasons why adjustment of status forms are denied:
- You have violated your current nonimmigrant status by committing a crime in the U.S.
- You have overstayed your nonimmigrant visa validity period and have been considered “out of status”
- You have worked in the U.S. without receiving work authorization.
- You entered the country illegally.
- You entered the country without a visa (as a crewmember or in transit)
- You are a K-1 visa holder who did not marry your fiance within the 90-day window.
These are just some of the things that would make you ineligible for adjustment of status even after your petition has been filed and approved. To best avoid these scenarios, work with your immigration attorney to make sure that everything is being done correctly.
How Our Immigration Attorneys Can Help
Getting a green card can be a long and drawn-out process with many hurdles to overcome. With so many forms, fees, processes, and regulations to consider, it can be easy to overlook or misunderstand something important. The best way to avoid critical mistakes is to hire an immigration attorney to work alongside you throughout your case.
Here at SGM Law Group, we have helped countless people like you become legal permanent residents. It doesn’t matter what stage of the green card process you are in. From choosing the right green card to attending a consular interview, our attorneys will be there every step of the way to ensure that everything is done correctly and all obstacles are handled.
To get in touch with one of our experienced attorneys, fill out this contact form and schedule your consultation with our office today.